THE credit crunch could soon lead to alternative-fuel motors rocketing in price on Britain’s used-car market.

Fuel prices may have fallen slightly over the last few days, but the effects of the economic downturn are continuing – and serving to boost interest in alternative fuels, says leading UK auction firm BCA.

Alongside news that motorists are driving less, car-sharing and even downsizing due to the rising cost of living, new data from BCA shows that average values for eco and alternative-fuel cars continue to out-perform the rest of the market.

BCA’s Tim Naylor said: “The key issue for green, alternative-fuel cars is acceptability with the general motoring public, because they will drive the demand in the used market. It would appear demand is continuing to rise, because average values for hybrid/electric and LPG-powered cars are well ahead of market expectations. The few examples the BCA handles always attract a flurry of bidding.”

Values from the latest BCA price report for September show that the small number of alternative-fuel vehicles entered for sale by fleet operators are selling for a hefty 15 per cent to 22 per cent above the expected guide price. In comparison, said Mr Naylor, the average fleet car is selling for about 92 per cent of its guide price.

Demand is actually increasing for hybrid electric/petrol cars such as the Honda Civic and Toyota Prius, he adds, and volumes sold at BCA have overtaken those of petrol/LPG cars – although numbers of all examples remain small.

He added: “The hybrid electric/petrol models are definitely the flavour of the moment, because there are no issues over fuel availability. Consumers have already seen a variety of alternative fuels heralded as the answer to global warming, and are understandably wary of making the wrong choice in terms of support and infrastructure – and LPG isn’t available at every filling station.

“Last year, BCA suggested there needed to be a sea-change in public opinion before any kind of alternative fuels became acceptable, and it took the very high pump prices earlier this year, coupled with ongoing economic woes, to really kick-start the interest with private buyers.”

BCA’s 2008 Used-Car Market Report showed that six per cent of survey respondents said environmental considerations were an influencing factor in their most recent car purchase – up from four per cent last year, and two per cent in 2006.

And five per cent suggest their next car will be an alternative-fuel car, with the vast majority preferring to buy used.